Restoring the road to recovery

Collaborator: Danielle Saitta
Published: 12/11/2020, 6:17 PM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(BOSTON, Mass.) Originally built as a hospital for the chronically ill, the facility on Moon Island was called Long Island Recovery Center. For many struggling addicts it was also known as the ‘Road to Recovery’. Officials told us there used to be a large number of emergency shelter beds on the island and recovery services treatment for substance use. “And the buses would go straight into Long Island,” addiction survivor Ashley Tenczar said. “There was the Anchor Inn. There was a bunch of programs.” The City of Boston owns Long Island Recovery Center, but the City of Quincy has jurisdiction over the island the center is built on. Mayor Thomas Koch of Quincy said the center operated for years with a 64-year-old bridge that connected Boston’s sick and homeless to the small island in Boston Harbor. “Over time the bridge was dilapidated and it was deemed unsafe,” Koch said. “The buildings on Long Island are in tough shape as well.” According to Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, there was no plan to help the afflicted in the works before the center closed in 2014. “The bridge was taken down without a comprehensive plan to address homeless or substance abuse throughout the city,” Wu said. “The immediate aftermath was that 1000 folks were displaced.” After its closure, Mayor Martin Walsh of Boston promised to reopen the center. But a legal battle with the City of Quincy has thrown a wrench in those plans. And he’s had to resort to less effective alternatives. “There was an emergency center put into place and the opioid crisis has only grown since then,” Wu said. Walsh set up a large tent close to Boston Medical Center called the ‘Engagement Center’. Local addicts say this was not an effective location for a recovery center. Just a short distance away is a milelong street known as Methadone Mile. Over the years, this part of Boston has been adopted by drug addicts. Tenczar believes its location has caused the tent to become less of a center for recovery, and more of a center for drug use, as well as a catalyst for violence. “My son used to sit on Mass Ave on the pavement all night smoking methamphetamine,” Tenczar said. “The dealer would be right there. The heroin dealer is at the entrance to the tent where my son was killed.” According to Mayor Walsh’s press office, the promise he made to reopen the island center involves a $92 million restoration project on the bridge. But Mayor Koch of Quincy said he and Walsh don’t see eye to eye regarding this restoration “My issue with that is not the programs,” Koch said. “My issue is the bridge because the traffic comes through a very narrow road and some very residential neighborhoods.” But there is also another issue Koch said they faced with the bridge: an uptick in crimes like breaking and entering. “People would steal to feed their habits,” Koch said. “And that was also a quality of life issue because the vans would then pick them up and take them to the island.” Koch told us he’s discussed these concerns with Walsh, suggesting ferry transportation onto the island instead of creating traffic once again by restoring the bridge. But, Koch said, the mayor of Boston is insisting they pursue his plan to restore things how they were, which has resulted in a lawsuit against the City of Quincy. We reached out to Walsh for his side of this issue but were told he could not be made available for an interview. “I think there are other ways to do this and I’ve recently met with Governor Baker to look at another piece of land on the mainland in Quincy, on the Randolph border, that could serve as a brand-new campus,” Koch said. Koch said he believes that the money for the bridge could go even farther in a new facility where they could provide not only beds, but job training to help addicts reestablish themselves. For many current addicts, a new center sounds like a chance of a lifetime. But they don’t have a lifetime to get help This week Mayor Martin Walsh announced that the Suffolk Superior Court ruled in favor of restoring the Long Island Bridge. He said he hopes to work together with the City of Quincy to move forward with the project.


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